Mukhisa Kituyi steps down from Unctad, eyes 2022 presidential race

Thursday February 04 2021
Mukhisa Kituyi.

Dr Mukhisa Kituyi steps down as secretary general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). PHOTO | FILE


Kenyan Mukhisa Kituyi has officially stepped down as secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

The move paves way for Dr Kituyi to vie for Kenya's presidency in the 2022 General Elections.

Dr Kituyi, 65, was appointed the seventh Unctad secretary-general on September 1, 2013 and reappointed for another four-year term in July 2017, the term beginning on September 1 that year.

Dr Kituyi had announced last month that he will be stepping down to concentrate on his bid for presidency in Kenya.

For a man who was in politics before he was appointed in 2013 by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, it may mean he will be like a fish returning to water.

Born in 1956, Dr Kituyi studied in Kenya, Uganda and Norway. He worked in with various NGOs before joining Parliament in 1992 as MP for Kimilili Constituency. He served this constituency until   2007. He failed his bid to be Senator of Bungoma in 2013 and was still challenging Moses Wetangula’s victory when the Unctad job came calling.


A former trade minister, Dr Kituyi’s term at Unctad was said to have helped countries pursue trade-offs and targeted financing, something that he argued helps reduce barriers to trade.

“I believe that Unctad adds most value to the international community’s development deliberations when it focuses attention on the urgent need of building productive capacities across all developing countries, but especially of those countries who have been left further behind in the global economy,” he said at the Executive Session of the Trade and Development Board of Unctad, his final assignment before he leaves office.

And while he served as Unctad head, he routinely advised Kenya against pursuing a bilateral trade with the US, warning it could challenge Kenya’s obligations under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AFCTA), an African Union treaty meant to expand trade between African countries.

The US and Kenya have yet to complete negotiations and perhaps it could form part of his campaign subjects.

Officials, in their tributes, said Dr Kituyi had campaigned for easier rules on digital commerce, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic challenged the usual physical trade.

“You have been a champion of the embracing of the opportunities of the digital economy and to have developing countries own the agenda and discussion, also leading the digital transformation of the Secretariat as we were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Nasir Andisha, Afghanistan envoy to Unctad and representative of the Group of 77 and China.

Mr Tahir Hussain Andrabi, the Pakistani envoy to Unctad and representative of the Asia-Pacific Group said Dr Kituyi supported developing countries in balancing trade with bigger players. 

“His passionate advocacy and untiring efforts in creating conditions, opportunities and support mechanisms for developing countries to leverage trade, finance and technology for sustainable development are well acknowledged by the members of the Asia Pacific Group,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme, the Coordinator of the Africa Group at Unctad said the agency’s advocacy for fair trade, using research, was useful for Africa who have since created the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

“Under your stewardship, Unctad has remained true to the execution of its mandate, and continues to assist developing countries to better access and benefit from global trade and investment.

“This has been done by way of providing analysis and technical assistance, facilitating consensus-building to leverage on trade, investment, finance, and technology as instruments for attaining inclusive and sustainable development,” Ms Molokomme from Botswana said.

Ms Isabelle Durant from Belgium will be acting secretary-general of Unctad once Kituyi’s departure takes effect on February 15.